Protestant Architecture and Modernity. Milestones, transfers, prospects

October 31, 2017 is five centuries since Martin Luther nailed his theses at the door of the church of the castle of Wittenberg (Germany), initiating a reforming process of Christianity that has marked the history of the Western Civilization.

During the last few years we have witnessed a progressive rediscovery of the impact of the Reformation on the construction of modernity. However, the study of its influence on the religious architecture of the twentieth century has hardly been approached, although its influence -whether by opposition or approximation, both in the buildings made for the reformed cult and in Catholic architecture- has been enormous.

It is difficult to explain the scarce theoretical production of Protestant architecture throughout these five hundred years of history. Perhaps the key lies in the very essence of Protestantism, which resituated man as the only place in which God dwells.

Indeed, emphasizing free will, according to which man can freely decide his own beliefs about the reality of God, the reformers turned their eyes to the Jesus who teaches that God does not live in any temple, but among the people who are Congregate in his name. The buildings, therefore, would be only places for the circumstantial meeting of the believers.

During the last century, important architects worked for the Reformed Churches, mainly in Central Europe and USA. It is impossible to underestimate the work of Otto Bartning, Olaf Andreas Gulbransson, and, in general, the milestones of German Protestant architecture between the two wars. The lessons of Erik Bryggman, Alvar Aalto or Sigurd Lewerentz  -among many others- are still valid. But how should we read, for example, the Unitarian, Methodist, or Pentecostal churches of Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen, or Philip Johnson? How have the ecumenical approaches made since the end of the 19th century influenced?

At present, the focus of the Reformation has shifted to other parts of the world, especially Latin America and the Far East. It is necessary to propose a joint vision of the global influence of the Reformed architecture and the spatial trans-fers between the different Christian confessions. In addition, how to address the challenge of interfaith temples? How is Christian architecture being reinvented today in the face of ongoing cultural and technological transformations?

The V International Conference on Contemporary Religious Architecture to be held in Santiago de Chile from August 23 to 27, 2017 will undoubtedly be a good time to exchange views on these issues.

 

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